Flour splattered everywhere with cookie cutters of all sizes and shapes covering the kitchen table. The making of homemade Christmas ornaments is a tradition we started several years ago. It’s a time when we slow down, make big messes and tap into our creative side. Now that the children are older, Lanie and I are primarily the ones who enjoy this. We like working the dough, rolling it out and cutting various shapes that remind us of this most sacred holiday. A holiday that has somehow turned more into a celebration of man than of the living God. We still our minds and make time to stop for a moment. Once the ornaments have finished baking, we take the myriad of paints and begin covering each one, bringing their dusty brown framework to colorful life.
One particular year, God had me in a season of great uncertainty. A time where I had to be very patient and wait on His words to comfort and provide the security I so desperately needed. I felt somewhat helpless and wished for Him to give me some idea of when this would pass. Yes, if He would just tell me when; then I could endure well! But time ticked… the dawn rose, the sun set, the days passed…
“If you would set me a time and then remember me.” Job 14:13
Of course, if we always knew when, we wouldn’t have to exercise faith in the wait.
I stare into the great selection of cookie cutters and chose the angel to begin with. Angels are beautifully known in Scripture as messengers. Messengers that brought hope and help. Celestial beings never meant to be ignored, but NEVER meant to be worshipped. Angels, another magnificent part of God’s creation with a specific purpose. They were who God used to minister to Elijah when he was weary and depressed (1 Kings 19:5-8;Heb.1:14). They brought good news of great joy (Luke 2:10). They provided protection to God’s people (Ps 91:11-12;34:7). Angels continue to work within the framework of the Almighty and carry out specific duties given to them from Him, alone. I think of this as I enjoy creating these old fashioned tree decorations.
My paint brush moves across the ornament, covering each curve, making sure the surface was immersed in the calming, aquatic blue-green shade. Unbeknown to me, there was a greater reason that I “happen” to choose the “angel” as well as the color, that is so closely associated with the sea. God has a brilliant way of reminding us of spiritual truths from His Word and that is what He had planned for this day. I rotated the baked cookie as I marveled at the beautiful strokes of color. And then, God caught my attention as the ornament remained in a certain position. I stared at it… stared a bit longer… what is this??? The season of life I was walking through was one of great difficulty. One that I felt I had little control over. A moment in time where I had little to offer anyone, much less myself.
A whale…this angel looks like a whale…
“But the Lord provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:17
Yes, I felt that I was in the belly of the whale and the circumstances were certainly dark, smelly and hard! I felt unable to escape them or make them move at a faster pace! More than even hearing from God at this point, I just wanted Him to fix it! I wanted to be spit out of this yucky circumstance and I wanted my ability to be able to pour out to others restored!!! That’s what I like. I like people and being with them! I didn’t like being still and having to wait and rest. I continue to paint the whale and remember Jonah and what God was doing. How God’s provision looked different. How God got his attention and forced him to stop, be still and listen.
“And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Jonah 2:10
The Lord reminded me that though it can seem dark and unfamiliar, He would soon allow me to be “spit out” and that I would continue to go forth with what He had called me to do. Though I felt engulfed in misery, God would bring me right out of this pit and land me on the firm, dry ground of faith! I would go forth knowing Him better. I would go forth with a fresh testimony of His provision and how His Word continues to speak and prove itself true. How everything that He allows in my life is to ultimately glorify Him and help others with the same help He, Himself, has given me. Yes, being in the belly can force us to lean in and listen a bit more astutely.
2 Cor. 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles SO THAT we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
My heart stunned by the hope given. The reminder that He was very aware and that He can use simple ornaments to remind us of His Word as well as visually help us understand where we are and where we are going.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4
What was this ornament? I was so caught up in seeing “a whale” that I forgot what it even was. An angel….yes. An angel is what I was painting. Angels that are known in Scripture for bringing messages, was being used by God to remind me of His teachings from the life of His servant, Jonah. The once angel is now a whale that resides on my tree every year. A reminder that I pull out on Christmas. A reminder that God sees, hears and sends His Word at just the right time. A reminder of how He is the author and giver of hope. Hope is not needed when things are smooth and life is clear. Hope is needed when circumstances are uncertain and life is messy. Hope enters and hope extends our endurance. Hope brings support to our feeble faith. Hope came from heaven on high, entered our sufferings and then left this earth suffering for us by hanging on a tree, paying all our penalties through His blood. Hope was resurrected and now resides alive in heaven and in my heart. Not only is HE our hope but He has given me a fresh story of hope that hangs on my tree each December.
We have a God who loves us and who speaks in amazing ways. You may feel like you are in the belly of the whale right now. Stay encouraged dear friend, He will soon bring you out and then show you ways that you can help others who may feel that they are lost in the waters of discouragement. May we celebrate just how ALIVE He is!
In His Love and Grace,